Pinch-hitting for David Schoenfield is a learning experience in and of itself. But I’m psyched to do it the next two nights.
Max Scherzer looks as if he’s ready to go ‘Full Bumgarner’: The more I watch Scherzer, the more I think that it’s his turn to be baseball’s premier pitcher in a postseason, a la Madison Bumgarner in 2014.
According to FiveThirtyEight.com’s projections, the Nationals have greater than a 99 percent change of making the playoffs, so Scherzer almost certainly will get his opportunity to shine.
On Tuesday, he showed what he is capable of, bidding for his third no-hitter through five innings, and yes, it was the Phillies that he finished with eight three-hit innings against, but he went eight scoreless two-hit innings with 10 strikeouts in his start before that against the Orioles.
In his past 12 starts, Scherzer has pitched 82 2/3 innings, struck out 100 and given up six home runs.
That last number is important. Ryan Howard took Scherzer deep on Tuesday, but Scherzer has — at least for the time being — cut down on his biggest bugaboo: the home-run ball.
You could make the case that Scherzer is the most fun starting pitcher to watch in baseball. He works fast, he throws strikes, he stalks around the mound after strikeouts, wearing out the same circular path. He’s an enjoyable interview, well versed in both stats and baseball history.
Two years into a seven-year, $210 million contract, Scherzer has been worth the money and then some. But the true test of that contract’s value will come in October. And we think he’s up to the challenge.
Longoria is going to impact the AL wild-card race: “It is what he does. That’s why he’s such a special player. We’re thankful we’ve got Longo on our side.” — Rays manager Kevin Cash.
The Red Sox have been the victims of plenty of big hits by Evan Longoria in his career, and the Rays’ third baseman was at it again Tuesday, hitting a go-ahead home run against Clay Buchholz in the eighth inning.
Longoria is hitting .333 with six doubles, five home runs and 12 RBIs against the Red Sox this season after batting .360 against them last season.
Longoria is by far the Rays’ best bat and he has done significant damage against two other AL East teams as well — the Blue Jays and Yankees. The one team that seems to have him figured out is the Orioles. He’s hitting .191 in 12 games against them.
This is all notable because of the Rays’ schedule. Their next 24 games are against their division rivals.
The Mariners aren’t messing around, but:
Kyle Seager after walk-off loss: Diaz has been phenomenal. If anyone deserves a hiccup, it’s him.
— Bob Dutton (@TNT_Mariners) August 31, 2016
With a one-run lead entering the bottom of the eighth inning in Texas, Mariners manager Scott Servais went to his closer, 22-year-old Edwin Diaz, for a six-out save.
Servais did something similar last Friday, using Diaz for five outs in a tight game against the White Sox.
The Mariners have shown an inclination to do things with a sabermetric bent, and one stat-based principle is the idea of getting your best pitcher in at the most important time in the game. Servais deemed that the eighth inning and went with Diaz instead of one of his setup men.
Now the Mariners have lost seven of eight, they’re four games out in the wild card, and their closer just threw 34 pitches in a loss. He’s probably unavailable for a few days.
Something important we’ll learn from Diaz’s next time out: How does he bounce back from his first blown save after saving 11 straight?
Brief aside: This definitely qualified as a Tim Kurkjian “circle this game” win for the Rangers. They’re now 30-8 in one-run games and have 40 comeback wins, most in the majors.
Words and actions go hand-in-hand: I like looking for quotes with meaning, ones where words and actions were in sync. Here are a few good ones from Tuesday, with a pitching theme.
“I think it helps having a little bit of pressure. It’s a little easier when there’s something on the line. Gives you focus.” — Mets P Seth Lugo
We’ve learned that Lugo can handle the pressure. In his past two starts, he has given up two runs in 11 innings. Not bad for a guy who had a 6.50 ERA in Triple-A. He helped the Mets pass the Marlins in the NL wild-card chase.
“Tonight going into the game, I tried to forget about everything that’s gone on this year. I watched only ’13 and ’14 film of me. I wanted to remember that guy. Not this other fellow who’s been pitching this year. I’m retiring that guy and bringing back the other fellow to appease the Twitter followers out there who wanted me retired.” — Cardinals P Adam Wainwright
Wainwright also noted that he changed his routine and went to a more aggressive delivery. The 35-year-old birthday boy was rewarded. That delivery netted him 21 strikes and nine outs on the 25 curveballs he threw in an extra-inning win against the Brewers. As a result, Wainwright was able to chuck his fastball and go to his secondary pitches when he was behind in the count.
Wainwright needed this kind of outing. He had given up seven runs twice in his previous three starts. The Cardinals need Tuesday’s version of Wainwright in the hopes of seeing this again.
— ESPN Stats Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 30, 2016
“He’s not the guy who’s getting away with plus-plus stuff. He’s just executing his game plan and he knows how to attack hitters. He studies hitters and he went to Dartmouth and he has a really good education. So he out-tricks guys.” — Anthony Rizzo on Kyle Hendricks
Kidding aside, Kyle Hendricks is a smart pitcher. He’s turning out great start after great start. That graphic up top on Scherzer notes that he ranks third in ERA since June 29. Hendricks is first at 1.33.
On Tuesday, the trickery took the form of what Hendricks said was his best curve of the season (he threw seven of nine for strikes), a fastball that averaged 88.8 mph (his second-fastest of the season) and his usual great changeup (five outs, no baserunners).
Throwing a no-hitter is hard: In Stats Info, our time for getting interested in no-hitters is when a pitcher clears five innings. It’s then that our notes-churning machine goes into action, with everything from who threw the last no-hitter for that team to whether the plate umpire has ever worked one.
Last season, we went to work 88 times and the payoff came in the form of a record-tying seven no-hitters.
This season, teams have gotten through five innings 62 times, including Scherzer on Tuesday (we were ready for Kyle Hendricks, but he was stymied after four), and the only pitcher to throw one is Jake Arrieta against the Reds on April 21.
Since this report is intended to educate, here are three bits of knowledge to share with your friends:
Two pitchers have had three no-hit bids of at least five innings this season: Scherzer and Marlins lefty Adam Conley.
Conley’s Marlins and the Blue Jays have the most no-hit bids of at least five innings this season with five each (Marco Estrada and R.A. Dickey have two each for the Jays).
And the team that has been held hitless through five innings the most this season? None other than the team with the best record in baseball, the Cubs (five times).